Getting off my usual topic for this week (partly because I’m trying to break my obsession with my diet)… lately I have become fascinated by the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle movement, mostly as it relates to our stuff. Several things have prompted these thoughts…
First, just look around. We ALL have too much stuff. When you walk or drive down any suburban street, you’ll notice most of the garages are packed full, sometimes meaning the cars do not fit. I especially hated walking on garbage night because inevitably I would see perfectly good items tossed to the curb and for some reason my heart ached for these once-loved and now discarded items. The one that still haunts me was a plant. Yes, someone had put a nice, big, healthy-looking houseplant by the curb with the trash. Had I not been in the process of moving, I think I would have gone back to save it. Why not put a “curb-alert” on social media or Craigslist to get rid of unwanted stuff instead of just dumping it??
Second, when I walk into a traditional store, I am often overwhelmed by the amount of stuff crammed onto racks and shelves, mostly clothes. Do we really need all of this!? What’s more, all of this stuff usually feels very generic and common, like it’s the same thing that tons of other people are wearing. I don’t want to be generic! The last several times I have walked into one of these such stores, I walked out empty-handed.
Next there’s me and my own family. Oh yeah, we are the classic example of too much stuff, some of which comes from other family members who have passed on or down-sized, and for some reason we hang on to, as if half their household is part of a special memory. I have always been very stressed and uncomfortable around clutter, so I have faithfully purged my own home since I became an adult, frequently making drops at Goodwill or similar, feeling good about myself for helping the less fortunate. Then one day I suddenly became aware that much of what I donated ended up in the garbage or shipped overseas. (Sad but true, Google it.) I had carefully cleaned and hung the clothing I was donating, and the associate tossed them onto the floor of a dirty trailer. Needless to say, I took them back and have been mostly selling/trading/donating directly to those that want my used clothing ever since. Don’t get me wrong, I think some of these stores do a great service to our community, but they are a business too and they get more than they can sell.
And then there’s the baby. Good grief, they come with a lot of stuff!!! I had several baby showers, and told everyone we welcomed pre-loved items, but nope, I got all new (plus a few awesome homemade things!). Not that I wasn’t grateful, but there is so much great used kid’s stuff to be had! I think there are generations of social stigma to get over – not being able to give a used gift. While pregnant, I told my grandmother I was going to buy a few maternity outfits second-hand since I wouldn’t wear them long and she thought that was a terrible idea because I could afford better and would feel better about myself with something lovely and new from a nice store. Um, I wouldn’t feel better about the cost of something I planned to only wear briefly. I actually got quite a bit from my Mom from when I was a kid. My mother-in-law used to give everyone in the family a “garage sale gift” at Christmas. I have a new appreciation for this now!
These days, my husband and I go out o our way to find good homes for things versus just dumping at a thrift store, and never dumping for the trash, but we still have so much opportunity. I’m actually thinking of challenging myself to see how long I can go without buying any new stuff, aside from basic household necessities (like tp and lightbulbs).
Check out this very interesting article on this subject. I especially enjoyed the comments.